Though her walls are mostly empty, showing she’s a fresh face in the Simon & Schuster building, her credentials certainly prove she’s not new to the industry. It all started with one plane ride over 20 years ago when Dawn Davis sat next to a publisher who needed an assistant. Now, she’s sitting at her mahogany desk excited about the possibilities of her new position as vice president and publisher of 37 INK.
37 INK is the newest imprint under The Atria Publishing Group (a subsidiary of Simon & Schuster), dedicated to bringing good books to hungry readers. The imprint will publish 10 titles a year from a variety of genres including literary fiction, narrative non-fiction, history, memoir and pop culture. “37 INK will publish authors from a diverse array of cultures and viewpoints,” says Davis. “Our intent and commitment is to discover new talent, nourish authors, and affirm reading as a source of both entertainment and knowledge while supporting our authors with Atria’s world-class marketing and publicity.”
The first book from the imprint is The Butler, a companion guide to the movie starring Forrest Whitaker, Oprah, and Robin Williams. Written by journalist Wil Haygood and already a New York Times bestseller, The Butler goes in-depth about Haygood’s journey to find Eugene Allen, a man who served eight presidential terms as the White House butler. His article, “A Butler Well Served by This Election,” was published in the Washington Post on November 7, 2008 and was the inspiration behind the movie.
Davis drew inspiration for 37 INK from the 37th parallel north that runs across California, Africa, and Italy, all playing a geographic significance in her life. “Italy is where my grandmother came from. Africa is where we’re all from. And California is where I’m from,” Davis said. “There’s so much fluidity in the world. We should read across all cultures; we’re all a hybrid.”
Next 37 INK will publish the e-book to 12 Years a Slave, a memoir about Solomon Northup, a free man from the north who was kidnapped and sold into slavery. The film adaptation will star Chiwetel Ejiofor, Quvenzhané Wallis, Alfre Woodard, and Brad Pitt. Already receiving Oscar buzz, the film will open in the States at the end of this year.
“I want to publish good books that the average, busy person can lose themselves in,” said Davis. “I want to publish literary books in a commercial way.”
37 INK aims to bring new voices to the floor, but Davis feels that’s also the goal of every publisher. So in addition to introducing new authors, Davis wants to go after some of her own ideas.
“Either it’s a literary trend, or you find someone that has a voice and a point of view. I like to work in both ways. If [someone has a platform] that fits the format of the book I’d like to collaborate,” she said. For example, Davis recently acquired a book of hilarious essays by “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl” creator Issa Rae. Rae’s web series has a huge fan following with over 20 million views.
The end goal, however, is to create literary books that are inspirational and soul-stirring. “I like to find things that are unexpectedly moving, like The Butler. He’s kind of an every man who shows up and makes in difference in his own small way,” said Davis. “Inner gems that speak a broader truth.”
Ebony LaDelle works in marketing at Simon & Schuster, specializing in the education & library space, as well as an advocate of literature of color. You can connect with her on Linkedin (http://www.linkedin.com/in/ebonyladelle).